Pac-12 Football: Standout Stars from the NFL Combine
The Pac-12 Conference sent several of its biggest stars off to the NFL combine in Indianapolis, and many of them were able to boost their stock for the upcoming draft.
The West Coast's wide receiver class was a strong one, highlighted by Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, who lit up the combine with incredible 40-yard dash and shuttle times.
While running backs Ka'Deem Carey and De'Anthony Thomas were disappointing, Stanford's Tyler Gaffney and Washington's Bishop Sankey excelled.
Additionally, UCLA's Anthony Barr, who is one of the top linebacker prospects available, solidified his strong draft stock.
We'll break down 10 of the best performances from Pac-12 stars at the combine.
Note: All combine stats via NFL.com.
LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
UCLA All-American linebacker Anthony Barr is regarded as one of the best players available in the NFL draft, and he solidified that status at the combine.
Barr didn't jump off the paper, but he did display the athleticism that has helped him thrive at the linebacker position in Westwood.
His 4.66-second 40-yard dash was tied for sixth among all linebackers. He added an excellent three-cone drill time of 6.82 seconds—the third-best time at the position.
He recently expressed his belief that he should be the No. 1 overall pick, per Ross Jones, Fox Sports. While that might not happen, his solid combine performance should have him in the top 10.
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
This time last year, Oregon State's Brandin Cooks was a relative unknown, but his stock has exploded in the past year.
Part of that was thanks to his incredible 2013 season that ended with the Beavers standout earning the Biletnikoff Award.
He was then one of the most impressive players at any position at the combine and stood out from all other receivers with a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash.
Most impressively, he set the combine record with a time of 10.72 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle and led all receivers with a mark of 3.81 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
He'll hope that, similar to West Virginia's speedy Tavon Austin last year, his standout performance in Indy will translate into a first-round draft selection.
RB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
Despite his incredible production, Tyler Gaffney was often knocked as a product of the Stanford system after rushing for 1,709 rushing and 21 touchdowns in 2013.
However, with excellent size at 5'11", 220 pounds, he nixed that analysis and showed off his athleticism in Indy.
He was solid with a 4.49-second 40 and turned in the No. 2 time (6.78 seconds) among running backs in the three-cone drill.
Just a few months ago, senior running back Tyler Gaffney was pummeling his way to earning hard-earned yards against some of the most physical defensive fronts in the Pac-12, earning a reputation as a hard-nosed, sturdy back. At the 2014 NFL Combine over the weekend, however, the two-sport star turned quite a few heads around the country when he showed an ability to be fast and mobile in addition to his established skillset as a power back.
WR Marqise Lee, USC
USC's Marqise Lee ran just a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, but he still left the combine with his stock solidly intact for the upcoming draft.
Lee's game is more than just straight-line speed.
He was strong in drills and showed great fluidity and catching ability, assets that make him one of the top receivers in the draft, as ESPN's Gary Paskwietz (insider subscription) detailed.
The 2012 Biletnikoff winner had strong vertical-leap and broad-jump numbers, making him a receiver who will effectively compete for jump balls at the next level.
TE Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Colt Lyerla is an interesting case going into the NFL draft.
Many teams will be down on the former Oregon Duck after his legal issues, but there's no denying that he is physically ready to be an NFL tight end.
At 6'4", 242 pounds, Lyerla outshined several prospects at his position, including Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and notched the No. 3 40-yard dash at the position at 4.61 seconds, just behind potential first-round pick Eric Ebron (4.60).
He topped all tight ends with a 39" vertical jump and tied for first with a 10'8" broad jump.
He'll be a great option on the goal line at the next level and, despite his off-field issues, should have done enough for a team to take a chance on him.
LB Trent Murphy, Stanford
Trent Murphy had a fantastic season for Stanford, earning All-American honors while leading the nation with 15 sacks.
At 6'5", 250 pounds, he has the size to play early in his pro career and showed he has the physical tools to see the field next year.
The only question is his role at the next level. He worked out with the linebackers but was a bit slow with a 4.86-second 40 time. He did however show some nice quickness with the second-best three-cone drill time (6.78 seconds) and a 4.20-second time in the 20-yard shuttle.
That should translate to a solid role as a rush specialist early in his career.
CB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State
The Pac-12 sent several corners to the combine, but the most impressive overall was Oregon State's Rashaad Reynolds.
He tied for third among all corners with 20 reps on the bench press and tied for first with a 4.00-second time in the short shuttle.
Physical corners are becoming more and more valued in the NFL, and Reynolds showed he can be that at 5'11", 189 pounds.
If he can improve his 40-time on his pro day, he's bound to boost his stock even further before May.
WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
Colorado's Paul Richardson recovered from a tough injury in 2012 to have a phenomenal 2013 season.
He tallied 1,343 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns for the Buffaloes and showed at the combine exactly what his game relies on.
He was one of the fastest receivers in Indy, notching a 4.40-second 40-yard dash. As an outside receiver, Richardson will need to gain some strength before he can be considered a serious threat at the next level.
After four years in the CU program, three seasons on the field, he understandably declared himself eligible for the NFL draft, where he is projected as a second- or third-round pick.
Breaking it down further, Richardson, who is 6-foot-1, has first-round speed and athleticism, second-round hands and fifth-round weight.
While he isn't at the top of this year's deep receiver class, he has the makings of a great pro.
RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
While some Pac-12 running backs, like Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, might have hurt their draft stock in Indy, Washington's Bishop Sankey went the other direction.
Already thought to be one of the top running back prospects, Sankey added impressive combine times to his nearly 3,500 career rushing yards and 37 touchdowns.
His 40-yard dash (4.49 seconds) was solid, especially when paired with the second-most reps in the bench press among running backs with 26. Sankey topped all running backs with a 6.75-second time in the three-cone drill and a 4.00-second short-shuttle mark, showing that he has the quickness to go along with his powerful running style.
Sankey then pretty flawlessly ran through the rest of the workouts, including pass-catching drills, catching the eye of at least one draft analyst who had wondered ahead of time about his hands.
“I thought the Sankey kid caught the ball well, which I wanted to see him do,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who mentioned Sankey as one of the better running back performers on the day.
In a deep class of running backs, Sankey might have risen to the top at the combine.
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
Many eyes were on UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo before the combine and he solidified himself as one of the top offensive guards available.
The former Bruin showed great all-around abilities in Indy. He ran a solid 5.04-second 40-yard dash and tied for third with a 4.44-second 20-yard shuttle, perhaps confirming to onlookers that he has the ability to pull as well as block in a variety of schemes.
Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com liked what he saw from Su'a-Filo at the combine:
Of the centers and guards that were on the field, I thought the guy that helped himself the most was Xavier Su'a-Filo from UCLA. Here is a player that on tape you can watch him play guard as well as tackle. I feel that his best spot will be at guard and there were some athletic movements that gave me some hope that he could be a player that you could plug in there if you ran a zone scheme, he could give you a little power.
His only question is strength, which he may have to develop at the next level.
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